5, 4, 3, 2, 1 countdown to a perfect workout begins now!
There seems to be so much confusion about what is the best workout that we decided to address this question now.
Is it simple running or cross country skiing due to its overall body conditioning as well as incredible cardiovascular benefits?
Is it interval training or circuit training and what is the difference anyway?
Or a very important one..is it training alone or is it group exercise where there are benefits of training with others having similar goals. Group training creates camaraderie between your fellow exercise buddies as well as providing a system of support not to mention accountability and adherence? It does makes sense that you will perform better with eyes watching you, not only for accountability when you have the urge to slow down or quit, but to also for help with alignment, posture and to add the element of safety. The down side is that there will be little one-on-one feedback and you seem to get stuck working in the middle of the pack and not at your personal fitness level. Not to mention that sometimes the schedule does not meet your daily routine.
Then there are the new trends in group exercise like boot camps being done in the local shopping center parking lots, CrossFit groups, and personal training sessions with an individual trainer or personal training in groups focused on different sport/athletic skill emphasis, bi, tri and marathon groups, swim teams, rowing teams, softball leagues and even bowling leagues.
So many options and so little time! How do we know if we are getting the most “bang for our buck” in terms of improving health, quality of life, fitness and don’t forget about anti-aging?
Guess what…no decision necessary as all of these could be good options for you! First decide to be active! Find what you enjoy doing; something that will be convenient for you to stay consistent at doing and that will be your best exercise choice. The bottom line is what Nike says “just do it”! That is the first step.
Once you put this plan into action and your fitness level improves you might want to expand your “activity” horizon and add some variety to your exercise life. Or not, as many will decide to keep well enough alone and stay with the specific exercise activity that is working for them.
Let us share with you some things to look for when assessing your specific activities that can make up your exercise plan. There are five key elements of exercise that have an important impact on health and fitness.
First, cardiovascular endurance to strengthen your heart and lungs, like the aerobic activities we have discussed.
Second and third are muscular strength and endurance, developed when the muscle is placed in overload. We will spend time discussing weight lifting and all the factors that contribute to anaerobic training in another article. Keep in mind that muscular strength is measured as a one-time maximum rep and muscular endurance is measured when weight is lifted over a period of time or maximum reps. So the training methods to achieve results for these two options are a bit different. If we want to increase strength, we would train using more weight and less reps. If we want to improve endurance, we would train using less weight and more reps.
Flexibility is the fourth area to be addressed and we know we need to stretch on most days. You might even enjoy a Pilates or yoga class. There is even a yoga class that is called Bikram “Hot Yoga” and is done in rooms where the temperature is about 105 degrees F with humidity of 40%. This not only helps you warm the muscles up to enhance the stretch but it also makes you sweat. There is a benefit to sweating as it gets rid of the toxins in the body. Remember everything in moderation.
The fifth and final variable is body composition. I like to think about the body being divided up into five key primary groups. The first group is made up of fat (subcutaneous and intramuscular). The second group is fluid (water, blood etc.) as we are about 60-70% fluid. Muscle (voluntary and involuntary) is the third group. Bones (appendicular and axial skeleton ) are the fourth group. And “stuff” is the final group. “Stuff” is inclusive of tissue, organs and other stuff.
A good exercise program addresses the elements from the list above that are most important to you. The final checklist that we want to review with you is the actual exercise and or physical activity session. Again five is our special number today. The five areas that we want you to understand and be able to identify are the warm up, aerobic training component, post aerobic cool down, muscular training and flexibility stretching. Whatever the activity or activities you decide to engage in, they should have the following elements incorporated.
The warm up is essential to prepare the body to engage in more strenuous activity. It helps reduce the risk of injury, increases the core temperature of the body and allows the cardiovascular system to adjust blood flow. The warm up should last between three and five minutes, depending on the activity you will do and your fitness level.
The aerobic training component improves body composition as we just discussed, improves the capacity of the heart and vascular system and is critical for achieving and maintaining ideal weight. We know about the weight bearing activities like walking and jogging help to increase bone density and is especially helpful for individuals with diabetes.
The post aerobic section will follow the aerobic section. This is usually three to five minutes. During this time simply do what you were doing during the aerobic time just at a slower pace. This will allow the blood in the extremities to be balanced throughout the body.
The muscular strength and muscular endurance training should follow the aerobic training in a traditional workout since the muscles and connective tissue will be warmed up and ready to safely experience overload. This can be done using free weights, machines, hydraulics, bands or even body weight engaging in exercises like lunges, sit-ups, pull-ups and push-ups.
Last, you will need to engage in focused stretching of major joints surrounded by muscle groups. Stretch and hold for a minimum of fifteen to thirty seconds. As the muscles and joints allow continue to increase range of motion while performing a static stretch in alignment.
We have covered a lot of ground today discussing the five components of fitness as well as the five key elements to the perfect workout. Now it is time to set up our exercise schedule and think about how often, how hard, how long and what activity to choose.
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